The COVID-19 pandemic has produced some of the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression, and this has hit older workers especially hard. Before the pandemic, 37.1 million people age 55 and older were in the nation's workforce, a number that had been growing steadily for two decades. But now many who have lost their jobs or been laid off worry if they will ever be rehired or if they can find another job. Yet even during these difficult times, we continue to make progress.
The pandemic has forced us into a grand experiment on the future of work — pushing practices on telework and flexible work forward with unexpected urgency. At the same time, as people live longer and generally healthier lives, they're working longer, giving both employers and employees of all ages the opportunity to reimagine what it means to earn and learn over a lifetime.
At AARP, we see these converging trends of automation and aging as a win-win for business and older workers. Older workers bring important, uniquely human skills that can't be automated, and age-diverse workforces are better at problem solving. Multigenerational teams also perform better. And, they help build a stronger pipeline of talent by providing continuity, stability and retention of intellectual capital.
The good news for older workers is that many employers agree. This week AARP released a new survey, which found that 83 percent of global business leaders recognize that multigenerational workforces are key to the growth and long-term success of their companies. The survey of nearly 6,000 employers in 36 countries was conducted in the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020. More than 70 percent of the survey data was collected during the pandemic, a time when millions of older workers in the U.S. and elsewhere are unemployed, furloughed or facing uncertainty in their careers.
Research shows that age-diverse workforces have a positive effect on employee engagement, productivity and the bottom line. It is heartening to see that business leaders around the world recognize this value, even as we've been concerned the pandemic could fuel ageism.
Even though over half (53 percent) of the employers surveyed do not yet include age as a factor in their company's diversity and inclusion policies, the survey found that: